Since the beginning of the 21st century, millions of U.S. jobs have been displaced or eliminated due to cheaper foreign labor. Trade balance changes in China alone have displaced over 3 million jobs in roughly the last 15 years, the majority of which were in the manufacturing sector. According to projections from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, many more jobs are going to be lost to outsourcing and offshoring in the coming years.
Based on BLS projections of overall employment change by occupation between 2014 and 2024, 24/7 Wall St. identified the 12 jobs that will shed more than 10% of their workforce due, at least in part, to foreign labor. In keeping with historical patterns, manufacturing jobs are the most likely to be outsourced in the coming years.
Even as labor costs in countries such as China are on the rise, they remain lower than in the United States. In China, labor costs 5% less, according to research conducted by management consulting firm Boston Consulting Group. With companies citing lower labor costs as the primary reason for moving jobs outside of U.S. borders, they will likely continue this move in the foreseeable future.
Most jobs at risk of being outsourced are low-skilled positions that require little to no training. Businesses invest relatively little in such employees and are therefore able to shift operations to a different country, where not much training and investing is required to realize the lower labor costs.
Outsourcing is not the only way cheaper foreign labor is undercutting U.S. employment in certain fields. Foreign companies are also benefitting from lower production costs and passing the savings onto consumers. The increased competition from foreign companies making the same products for less is also negatively affecting demand for American products and therefore workers.
Of the dozen jobs projected to lose at least 10% of their workforce by 2024 to cheaper foreign competition, six are in metal manufacturing. It is perhaps no coincidence that China has the biggest steel industry in the world. In part because many Chinese businesses are subsidized by the government, Chinese companies can sell steel at a low price.
The fact that these jobs are low skill positions is the primary reason so many are being offshored. Low-skill positions are more easily automated, and so employment in many of the occupations on this list are being further eroded as workers are replaced by machines. In the metals and plastics industry, many companies are adopting new high-tech machines that require computer programmers instead of manual machine operators. While employment among machine and plastics workers is expected to fall by 13.0% between 2014 and 2024, the number of computer control programmers and operators is expected to increase by 17.7% during that time.
To identify the jobs being lost to overseas competition, 24/7 Wall St. analyzed employment projections by occupation from the Bureau of Labor Statistics for the period of 2014 to 2024. Only occupations expected to contract by more than 10% were considered. Based on analysis from the BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook and other speculation, foreign competition is the main cause for the projected employment decline of 12 occupations.
These are the 12 jobs America is losing to foreign labor.